To improve its ability to manage shocks such as population, demographics, climate change and to further develop economically, Pakistan needs to improve its water management and reduce any inter-provincial mistrust which can undermine resource allocations. The 1991 Apportionment of Waters of the Indus River System between the Provinces of Pakistan (often referred to as the Accord) was negotiated to divide surface water between the four provinces, and annual allocations are determined by the accompanying Indus River System Authority (IRSA).

"There is no higher priority for water management in Pakistan than to move aggressively in putting in place a totally transparent, impartial system for implementation of the Accord."
Briscoe and Qamar (2006)

The Accord in effect mirrors the Indus Water Treaty's approach which is to divide the resource rather than jointly develop the resource and share the benefits. The consequence is a series of missed opportunities exacerbated by the 18th Constitutional Amendment which delegates yet further responsibility to the provinces and separate management. The Accord is widely interpreted to forbid water-trading. This creates the perverse incentive for every province to use up their respective quotas of water by developing irrigated agriculture although it may be economically sub-optimal to do so. The competing demands for water are beginning to test the Accord. Cities such as Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi etc need to be serviced through surface water - yet the surface water is entirely allocated to provinces based largely on historical irrigation uses. Provincial governments in turn are finding the task of moving water across sectors very challenging. The Accord does not provide any guiding or supporting framework for these challenges.

The objective of this component is to facilitate inter-provincial dialogues in order to improve the provinces' investment decisions.

Work Done

Marking the occasion of completing 25 years of the Apportionment of Waters of the Indus River System, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) in partnership with the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) launched dialogues and discussion on Inter-Provincial Water under the ICIB program. The purpose of this dialogue was for a wide spectrum of water experts and professionals to reflect upon the last 25 years of the Accord and look at charting out possible strategies for more coordination in the future. This dialogue was launched on the 26th of October 2016 in Islamabad followed by meetings in each of the provincial capitals in Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh.

Some of the issues on which there was consensus included

  • All water audits should be publicly available. IRSA and the Ministry of Water Resources have committed to looking in to this and if possible declassifying and making publicly available their bi-annual water reports.
  • The Annual "Losses and Gains" reported by IRSA need to be addressed as a priority. This has now been included in the National Water Policy 28.4(v).

The dialogue meetings highlighted the unsuccessful previous investments in improving data acquisition within the Indus Basin and the need to revisit this. PCRWR with support from IWMI undertook testing of various technologies for data acquisition, archiving, post-processing and have successfully commissioned four instruments at four canals (one in each of the four provinces of Pakistan). The data is post-processed and archived on cloud servers and disseminated through website; SMS and digital signage. This work has received interest from the Indus River Systems Authority (IRSA) and provides knowledge for investments such as the Water Capacity Advisory Services Project supported by the World Bank. The installation and commissioning of instruments was accompanied by further discussions and dialogue which highlighted that not all the challenges can be resolved through technology - that some require extensive negotiation between disagreeing parties. This understanding and recognizing the limitations is crucial if future investments in data acquisition are to be successful.

Quality Assurance Manual: Indus Telemetry

Commissioning Report: Indus Telemetry

Summary Report Evaluating Capacity Building: Indus Telemetry

Pakistan's Interprovincial Water Accord: Perceptions and Opinions